Intentional Confusion


Did you notice how often it has been mentioned that many of our current economic troubles are due to communication problems?

“The consumer did not understand the loan terms.”

“Many homeowners were lead to believe they could afford houses that were really to expensive for them.”

“The banks add so many fees that no one understands.”

It is suggested that if the consumer understood better, they would have kept themselves out of trouble.  Now, whether or not that is true, I would submit that clearer communication and better understanding would still have been beneficial to many.

Unfortunately, I think we can all admit that many financial institutions and their agents increasingly created intentional confusion for the expressed purpose of greater profits.  And I believe that such intentionally confusing contracts and terms are disrespectful of the client and of the relationship.

Fortunately, in a good example of improving communication, there has been a big push recently to make complex financial documents less confusing for the customers.  This includes efforts to simplify bank statements, loan applications and credit card terms.

Financial institution are now taking steps in user-friendly directions. Beginning in December, Bank of America began sending its credit card customers a one-page breakdown of their fees and rates. It doesn’t replace the complicated credit card agreement, but the one-page “clarity commitment” outlines what the bank considers the most important information customers want to know.

The new mortgage documents for Good Faith Estimates and HUD-1 used for mortgages have been reworked and are now starting to be required.  These documents really do make it easier for the consumer to understand their closing costs and their loans.

Intentional confusion is, of course, not limited to the financial industry.  That is just a recent visible example.  Intentional confusion exists in all markets and many relationships.  However, those that aim for long-term success work to avoid this confusion and build solid relationships that endure.  And you can’t do that when if you are hiding things from others.


Glenn S. Phillips is the author of Nerd-to-English: Your Everyday Guide to Translating Your Business, Your Messages, and Yourself. His website,, will lead you to more information about effective communication training, risk assessments and genuinely helpful tips. You can email Glenn directly

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About the Author

Glenn S. Phillips works with leaders who want to leverage technology and understand risks within. An author and blogger, Glenn is often quoted in national media, plays a really ugly tuba (it even has a bullet hole) and is a fan of dark chocolate and great puns.